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Wednesday 28 July |
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Great moments in journalism: TV station fabricates a controversy, destroys local business

The Deacon's Bench

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 04/02/15

When you need a hot story, just create one. Check this out, from The Daily Caller:

There were no complaints nor denials of service to anyone ever, but because of their religious beliefs, Memories Pizza stands in ruin and the family who owns it has had their lives threatened countless times. How did the O’Connor family, owners of Memories, find themselves in this situation? They were honest with a reporter in search of a story to fit the media’s narrative.

Alyssa Marino is a reporter with ABC 57 News in South Bend, Indiana. With her state in the center of a hurricane over religious freedom, Marino must’ve thought she’d had a coup – a devout Christian business owner willing to speak on camera about their religious beliefs and how it impacts the operations of that business.

The issue of gay marriage is not one that generally comes up when talking about a pizzeria. Neither is straight marriage, for that matter. Local pizza joints aren’t generally hotbeds of wedding receptions. Yet, Marino found herself wandering into Memories Pizza to get the unsuspecting owners to weigh in on an emotional issue which has never come up in the course of the business’s nearly 10 year existence.

When owner Crystal O’Connor told Marino, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she had to know she’d struck gold.

Marino had her headline, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.” O’Connor’s quote was in paragraph three. The chyron on the screen for the report read, “Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples.”

It gets worse. Read on.

There are a lot of words to describe this exercise: shameful, irresponsible, misleading, inflammatory, exploitative. “Fair” and “balanced” don’t exactly leap to mind. Neither does “accurate.” The chyron alone, announcing that the restaurant denies service to same-sex couples, is patently false. As far as anyone knows, the restaurant has never done that. Ever.

It seems clear that the editorial process went something like this:

Producer: “Does anyone know of a business that might refuse to serve gay people? Any place that’s, you know, religious?”

Researcher: “Hey, I know a little pizza place about 20 miles from here that is very Christian.”
Producer: “Great! Alyssa, head over there and see what they think.”

The rest is history.

There is no other way to put this: this is splidshod, shitty journalism. The station, in effect, lit a fire, threw gas on it, and watched a business go up in flames.

Also: Major props to Scott Ott at Pajamas Media, who first called attention to this boondoggle yesterday.

UPDATE: Get Religion weighs in with commentary and analysis from all over.

Good stuff.

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